Men's Responses to Women's Sexual Refusals: Development and Construct Validity of a Virtual Dating Simulation of Sexual Aggression

Psychol Violence. 2018;8(1):87-99. doi: 10.1037/vio0000078. Epub 2016 Nov 10.


Objective: To provide evidence regarding the construct validity of a sexual aggression proxy in which male participants go on multiple virtual dates with a woman. A unique strength of this proxy is participants' opportunity to make choices throughout the simulation about how they interact with their virtual date. These decisions determine their exposure to the female agent's sexual refusals.

Method: Piloting included focus groups (n = 82), surveys (n = 95), and cognitive interviews (n = 32). To establish construct validity, 87 male participants completed two separate sessions: 1) an online survey with measures of discriminant and convergent validity; and 2) a lab session in which they went on multiple dates that included nonsexual options, sexual options which the female agent accepted, and sexual options she refused. Sexual aggression was operationalized as the total number of sexual refusals that participants' received.

Results: There was strong correlational evidence for discriminant and convergent validity. As hypothesized, there were some differences in the risk factors associated with refusals received on casual as compared to steady dates. Additionally, the number of refusals received was associated with the types of thoughts and actions commonly reported by perpetrators.

Conclusions: This simulation provides a new approach for examining sexual aggression in controlled experiments that vary factors within the simulation such as the man's and woman's intoxication and past sexual history. Because what happens is based on each individual's responses, it could be adapted for use in prevention and treatment programs.

Keywords: etiology; experimental analogues; perpetration; prevention; proxy measures; sexual aggression; sexual assault.